Whether you succeed at losing weight will depend upon your environment. In fact, the environment is the invisible hand that shapes your behaviour. This explains why people whisper in church or are loud at concerts, why you drink more when with specific friends and hardly drink when with other friends or even why recovered drug addicts relapse when they go back to their old environments related to their addiction.
When you choose to repeat your behaviours, you turn them into habits. The choices you make will be influenced by those who are close to you, those who you consider "powerful", those who are in the majority and those who are considered to be the ‘cool crowd’. For example, if you hang out with people who usually drink a lot, you’re more likely to drink. If you hang out with people who look after themselves with regular exercise and good eating habits, you’re more likely to exercise and eat well — because it’s easier to go with the majority than be in the minority.
No one can ever have positive habits in a negative environment. That means for you to achieve your weight loss goals, you need to place yourself in the environment where the majority of people are working towards, or have already achieved, a similar goal, and who have developed habits that will help them succeed.
Your environment gives off many cues. Environmental cues are what informs you about what’s happening and how to respond. Your environmental cues can be people, places and things.
For example, if you walk into a pub, the smell of beer, the sound of people laughing and the sight of full beer glasses may be a cue for you to want to drink. Similarly, if you go away camping with friends, you might associate this with eating junk food, and drinking wine, because that’s what you always do when you go camping together. Your cues can also be closer to home. If one of your habits is to eat chips while watching TV, then simply sitting down to watch TV can be a cue for you to grab a bag of chips.
Your cues don’t necessarily have to trigger you to drink or overeat either. For example, going into a change room when shopping for clothes may lead you to start comparing yourself with someone else. Associating with some people may lead you to engage in gossip, or people-pleasing behaviours. Walking into a cluttered room may lead you to feel overwhelmed and stressed and cause you to procrastinate because everything seems too hard
To put it simply, you’ll self-sabotage more when you’re with people who enable you, and you’ll step up more when you’re with people who make you accountable. So it’s vital that you choose or set up the right environment that will help you lose weight.
When it comes to weight loss success, you need to consider two types of environments:
- Your external — the physical environment around you
- Your internal — your mindset and habits
How to set up your external environment
How well you set up your external environment will determine how successful you are at losing weight. One of the key areas to look at is your kitchen.
Human nature dictates that whatever food is most readily available and easy to reach for, we’ll eat, regardless of our goals. That explains why many of us, despite our best intentions to lose weight will end up snacking on biscuits or chips or whatever else we can find, even if we have a fridge or pantry full of healthy food.
An important part of setting up your kitchen environment is eradicating the foods that will derail you, and replacing it with foods that
- will provide you with great nutrition
- you can quickly turn into delicious, satisfying meals
- are nutritious, delicious and ready to eat.
This is not to say you have to get rid of absolutely everything. However, if your fridge, pantry or freezer contains foods that you know you’ll be tempted by, or that are the foods that you tend to binge eat, get rid of them.
Of course, you may have people in your household who can enjoy these foods in moderation who may be frustrated to find that you’ve got rid of them. If this is the case, consider placing these foods in opaque containers at the back of the pantry or fridge. That way, you’re not seeing them every time you go looking for food, and they won’t be at the forefront of your mind.
If you have a family member who brings tempting foods into your house, ask them not to do so and to perhaps eat them outside of the house if they want to enjoy them. In order to lose weight successfully, it’s important to seek the support of your family members. Removing tempting foods is one way they can support you.
Once you’ve eradicated these foods from your kitchen, it’s important to replace them with foods that will support your weight loss goals and provide your body with optimal nutrition. Our blog Foods to eat when you’re trying to lose weight will explain in more detail what these are. However, things to put on your shopping list include:
- Lean meats
- Fish — fresh and tinned
- Low-fat dairy
- A wide range of vegetables, in different colours
- Fruit — frozen and fresh
- Legumes — canned or dry
- Grains — rice, quinoa, oats
- Olive oil
- Herbs and spices
- Omega-3 fats — flaxseeds, flax oil
Gather your equipment
Now you have a kitchen full of great food, you need to make sure you’re fully equipped with the tools you need to be able to effortlessly cook a variety of quick, easy and nutritious meals. Things that will make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable and efficient include:
- Set of sharp knives
- Easy-to-clean chopping boards
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Nutrition scales
- Good-quality pots and pans, with included steamer
- Slow cooker
- Working hotplates
- Magic Bullet or other blender
- Hooded BBQ
- Containers to store your delicious meals.
Once you’ve completed the steps above, you’re ready for the fun part — meal prepping.
You see, while it’s important to have healthy, nutritious food at your fingertips, guess what will happen on the days when you’re tired, stressed or simply can’t be bothered to cook? That’s right. You’ll end up reaching for the takeaway menu because it’s an easier option. While this might give you short-term satisfaction it won’t help you lose weight and you’re likely to feel guilty afterwards.
Meal prep is a structured process to ensure you consistently have healthy meals readily available in order to achieve your weight loss goals. It also saves you time, money and stress. Doing regular meal prep means you’ll always have a nutritious meal on hand ready to go. But these meals don’t have to be reserved for dinner. By prepping your pre- and post-workout meals in advance, your lunches and some of your dinners, you will free up so much time during your week and will avoid the usual question of “What should I make?” And by popping meals in the freezer, you’ll never be caught short on what to eat, when you simply can’t be bothered to cook.
Be sure to read our blog Family meal prep secrets, for a step-by-step guide on how to do family-friendly meal prep.
The other place that you spend lots of time during the week is your workplace. Do you keep chips or chocolate in your drawers? Do you have your own stash of biscuits on your desk? Is lunch something you buy each day? By removing tempting foods from your workplace, and taking your own lunch each day — remember all those tasty meals you’ve prepared? — you’ll easily be able to stay on track and stick to with your weight loss goals.
Another tip is to keep your desk clean and clear of clutter. When your desk is messy, or is piled high with paperwork and empty coffee cups, your mind becomes cluttered too. This can lead to you feeling stressed, which can then lead to emotional eating.
You might wonder what the connection is between your car and your weight loss. Well, many people eat in their car! They may keep a secret stash of lollies in the glovebox, or eat their fast-food in it after going through the drive-thru. Have you ever got into your car and still been able to smell the takeaway you brought home the night before? Even smelling take-away food can increase the temptation to eat more of it. Making sure you keep your car clean on the inside. Throwing rubbish, old take-away wrappers and drink cans on the seats and the floor will only make it easier for you to keep buying these foods again.
Give your car a complete wash, inside and out, and then make it a non-negotiable rule that the only thing you consume in it, is water.
Sleep plays an extremely important role in weight loss success. That’s why setting up your bedroom environment is so important. Picking up your dirty laundry off the floor, cleaning up the clutter, putting nice linen on your bed, and making it a restful place will mean that your bedroom is more inviting, so you’re more likely to want to go to sleep earlier. For other tips on how to prepare your room and yourself for a good night’s sleep, read our blog Top tips to improve your sleep.
How to set up your internal environment
Setting up your internal environment may take a little longer than setting up your external environment, but it’s probably more important to do it.
That’s because your internal environment relates to your habits — your thoughts, beliefs, mindset and behaviours.
Most of us think that our habits are a result of our motivation, skills and effort. And while these qualities matter, it’s your habits that will take over eventually.
Your habits are powerful subconscious routines of behaviour that are designed to make life easy for us. Our brain ‘chunks’ information together and turns it into a habit as a way for our brains to save energy. The reason they are so powerful is because they are embedded into your brain which makes it easy to slip into them again and again.
Keystone habits are the most potent habits of all because these are the habits that lead to the development of multiple habits. These habits will control your life because they produce a trickle-down effect. If your keystone habit is one that sabotages your efforts, then all the daily actions you take, without even thinking about them, will also sabotage your success.
Common habits that are holding you back
There are many habits that hold people back from losing weight. While everyone has different habits that continue to sabotage them, the most common are:
- Being a perfectionist
- Comparing yourself to others
- Having a diet mindset
- Lack of confidence
- Living in fear
- Using food and alcohol to deal with your emotions
- Not celebrating your success.
If you can relate to any of these habits, click the links above to find out more on how they work, and why they prevent you from successful weight loss. Remember, it’s quite possible that you have a number of these habits!
How to break bad habits
Habits can either help us lose weight, or hinder us. Regardless of whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’, all habits work in a loop that has 3 steps:
- A cue or trigger — something that causes you to engage in a behaviour
- A routine — the automatic behaviour or thought that you engage in
- A reward — the thing that keeps you engaging in that habit over and over again.
To understand how your habits work, you need to understand the cue, the routine and the reward.
For example, a trigger for you might be a stressful day at work. This may lead to the routine of bingeing on food. The reward for this behaviour (even though it goes against your intentions for weight loss), is that it soothes your stress and helps you relax.
Once you have developed a habit, it’s impossible to get rid of it. However, you can change your habits by replacing them with new ones.
The key to replacing your habit is to recognise the trigger, and replace your regular routine with a different one, that will still give you the same reward.
In the example above, the stressful day is the trigger, but the new routine could be going for a walk, which will still help you relax and soothe your stress.
A more in-depth example on how this works can be found in our blog How to break your bad habits. Be sure to read it so you understand how to replace your habits.
Build new ones
You can also build new habits by ‘habit stacking’. This involves identifying a habit you already do each day (or week), and then stacking a new behaviour on top of it. In other words, your current habit becomes the trigger for the new habit.
For example, if you want to start walking in the mornings, you can stack this on top of your habit of using the bathroom when you get up each day. So, your current habit is to get up and go to the bathroom. The new habit is to put on your walking clothes and shoes (which you put in the bathroom the night before) and go for a walk.
To get into the habit of placing your walking clothes in the bathroom the night before, stack this on top of your current habit of cleaning your teeth at night. So, your current habit is to clean your teeth; new habit is to lay out your walking clothes.
The trick to building a new habit is to follow these steps:
- Make it obvious — how can I make it obvious that this is the new habit I want to build? What is the cue?
- Make it attractive — how can I make doing this new habit something I WANT to do? How do I want to feel by doing it?
- Make it easy — how can I make it easy for me to do this new habit? What will be my new routine?
- Make it satisfying — what is the reward for me to build this habit?
Changing habits sounds like a lot of work. Can’t I just rely on willpower instead?
No! Willpower is a only a short-term measure which requires self-control, determination and hard work. It’s like a battery — the more you use it, the less you have, and the harder it becomes to keep it up. Eventually, when your willpower is gone, you’ll fall back into your old habits because they use up less energy and it’s a whole lot easier.
Interestingly, research has shown that people who appear to have tremendous self-control, or willpower are better at setting up their lives in a way that doesn’t require them to use it! In other words, the people with the best self-control are the ones who need to use it the least. And because they don’t rely on it all the time, they always have enough when they need it.
So what’s their secret? Instead of relying on willpower and self-control, these people spend less time in tempting situations, by creating a more disciplined environment. That is, they set their environment up for success by making it easy for them to eat healthy, get to bed early, get to their training sessions, avoid toxic people, and do the things that will help them lose weight.
On the other hand, people who don’t work on their environments — both internal and external — are the ones who continue to struggle with their weight loss, and spend lots of time falling off the wagon and getting back on it again, but never achieving their goals.
If that’s not enough to convince you to change your habits, there are certain ones, such as improving your sleep, reducing stress, being consistent, and having structure, that actually help you recharge your willpower. So by working on these habits, you can ensure you’ll always have plenty of willpower to rely on, if and when you need to use it.
Change your environment for weight loss success
Of course, changing habits and building new ones requires work. But it’s probably the most important work you’ll do in your journey to lose weight. If you don’t work on your habits, they will continue to sabotage you.
But how do you change your habits if you’re not aware of what they are, and how they impact you?
That’s where we come in. Because we’re not emotionally invested in your habits and mindset, we can help you identify the ones that are holding you back from losing weight, and provide you with a personalised action plan to help you build new habits that will lead to weight loss success
Changing and building habits can take some time, but it’s the only way you’ll ever achieve permanent weight loss. However, utilising our online coaching program, you’ll be given all the support, help and time you need to overcome your self-sabotaging habits and create new ones that will make weight loss easy. Once you have built these habits, you’ll never have to work hard, or strive to lose weight again, because these habits will be wired for life. In other words, your life will be a series of habits and behaviours that will naturally lead you to achieve the body you desire.
If you’d like help sorting out your internal and external environments so you can lose weight successfully, we can help you. Right now, our online coaching program is OPEN. This program, delivered completely online includes guidance on habit and mindset change, as well as nutrition and exercise. And because it’s delivered online, you can do it from anywhere in the world. Find out how it works and then, click the link below to see if you qualify.
Our online and face-to-face Diet Antidote Transformation System is for those people who are ready to change. However, if you’re not ready to commit to our DATS program, get a head start with our entry-level myPersonalised eCoaching program, our state-of-the-art 6-week program designed to help you bridge the gap between diets, exercise and long-term results. Customised for you to reach your personal goals, build healthy habits around mindset, discipline, nutrition and exercise that stick, and transform your life. You get 12-months’ worth of content compressed into 6 weeks, complete with worksheets, personalised action steps and resources. You also have lifetime access so you can learn at your own pace, and revisit any lessons you need to.
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What do you think are the habits that are sabotaging your weight loss? Let us know in the comments below.